As a kid from a middle class upbringing, I learned pretty quickly that I needed the right shoes-Reeboks, the right jeans-Guess Acid Wash, and the right church-the one’s where my friends went. Then my teen years hit and suddenly, all that conformity seemed really wrong. So I bucked that system-I got Birkenstocks and 2nd hand clothes. AND I started to believe that certain religions made people hypocrites. From then on, anything in my life that whiffed of hypocrisy was immediately bad. I had transformed into a monochrome, non-apologetic, authority-questioning rebel. And I was determined to find my own way-the right way!
I had always been a book lover, but exploring the non-fiction section of
the library opened new realms. Skimming the “200s” section of the public library, I found a feast of religious thought. In the “100s” section, I found philosophies, and the “300s” contained books on the study of society. There was a goldmine of reading to understand heaven and hell on earth and beyond! The most memorable nugget I mined from those ingots of information? I could disappear like a ninja if I could practice perfect zen. But I never did find “The Way.”
My rebellion settled into more conventional behavior when I realized that established traditions did indeed have value. Yes-there were “sinners” at church, but wasn’t that where they should be (I mean Duh!”? After having kids, we settled down and joined the Episcopal church and enjoyed the fellowship of a loving church family. As we christened my children, I felt my ancestors nod in approval over my choice for tradition, and I beamed in my virtue. Of course the ancestors couldn’t know that on Monday mornings, I was secreted away in the bathtub reading Buddhist koans. They would never spy on me there. I was determined to hear the sound of one hand clapping-the apparent first step to inner peace.
Moving abroad has brought all my prior book-learning alive. Asia thrives in its abundance of belief systems, many accepting and even welcoming the others (but we won’t go further down that road today). On my daily walks, people smile at me as they practice their beliefs on the streets and in open temples. They even welcome a photo or two. When we became expats, I stepped out of the persona of a “church-goer” with secret bathtub meditations, and I began to be curious about religions again.
Recently, I studied Chinese characters and learned that “道“[Dao] means Boulevard, and it is also the character for the philosophy/religion called Daoism/Taoism. So I looked up the religion to see what it was all about-after all, Daoists represent a large portion of the population around me. Once I understood the religion, wouldn’t I know the people? Anyway, I did a quick google search on Daoism: It literally translates to “The Way.” According to Dao, one can achieve harmony or be on this “Way” by living a simple, natural life without chasing excessive material wealth or celebrity.
Could it be that serendipity brought me to study this “Dao?” I had always been looking for “The Way!” And we are trying to live simply! We do want to achieve financial independence, but we are definitely not going for excessive material wealth. We just want the freedom to explore the world and have the time to help make it better. We believe that the more bags you have, the more baggage!
I became even more curious. So I have set out to learn about Dao, and what better place to get the good information? Books. Books. Books-my vice when it comes to saving money AND my vice when it comes to productivity. As an expat, it is really difficult to refrain from the purchasing of books. I know there is a lot of this Dao stuff out on the web, but who knows which crackpot or armchair philosopher is writing the content? To really understand something, one needs access to vetted, reviewed, and edited reading material-like the kind you borrow or buy. Asia does have amazing libraries, but their English sections do not cover every topic know to man. Can you believe it? I know I was certainly found myself disappointed.
That left two options. Option one was buying books-spending money-extra money if you want an imported hard copy. Daoism held the promise of teaching me how to be content without spending money, but should I be spending money to find out how? It felt a bit like buying an old collection of “Get Rich Quick” scheme audio cassette tapes. Spending money to make someone else rich quick only to find the tapes unused, dusty and archaic in the attic? I’m not sure. The “free” option would be to download a pirated copy of a chosen book. Talk about a struggle over value, right? No, I could not save money at the expense of my values.
Ack! What’s a girl to do!?
A long time ago, I had heard of this cute spiritual book called The Tao of Pooh. Like The Little Prince and Jonathon Livingston Seagull, it gives you great life advice in a provocative child-like format. Now that I had decided that I want to know all things Dao, it seemed like a great place to begin.
After an allowance check, I finally decided to buy The Tao of Pooh, by
Benjamin Hoff for my Kindle App, but it wasn’t available electronically. So I cruised on over to the author’s website, http://www.benjaminhoffauthor.com/, to see if I could buy it electronically there. Alas, there was no button to “Get It Now.” However… Several links suggested that I could download it for FREE. Values! Values! Values!
After a fruitless search, I went back to Benjamin Hoff’s website to have a look at it. Apparently, he has recently been embroiled in a fight with Penguin to regain his rights to the book. Hoff seems to be willing to forgo more income from the book in order to stand his ground. On his site, he specifically writes, “Benjamin Hoff has not authorized any e-book editions of any of his books. Any company or organization that states or implies that it has his authorization for its e-book editions of his work is lying as well as stealing. Anyone purchasing or downloading any e-book editions of these books is violating the author’s rights.”
Boo!!! Hiss!!! I really wanted to read Hoff’s primer on Daoism before I tackled the more complicated texts. But there it is. Both writer and publisher have given the content pirates even more power by refusing to sell their product. I have to stick to my values. I appreciate the author’s dilemma. I have a healthy respect for the law. So I will not find my enlightenment in The Tao of Poo. I’ll save my money to spend elsewhere on another modern Daoist sage. Until I figure out who that is, I will read the Tao Te Ching-the “bible of Daoism.”
Luckily, the Tao Te Ching is so old-you can get it for free-no copy write.
I guess this is just the Way, the Dao, it’s meant to happen. Life unfolds and we make our choices. And so I begin my reading of the ancient texts to understand how to live life with simplicity here, on this boulevard, the way, and the Dao.